Imagine it's 1965 and you're buying the Montero Red GTO of your dreams. With an order form in hand, you begin to pick the options: 360hp Tri-Power, four-speed, 3.90 rear, Rally Gauges, Rally I wheels, and so on. Then reality sets in. You're young and newly married. Though the heart is willing, the bank account isn't. So the options begin to fall off the order form. By the time all is said and done the GTO is back to the standard 335hp four-barrel 389 and three-speed trans, manual steering and brakes, and the only three options are AM radio, power antenna, and tilt wheel.

That's how it went down for Brooklyn native Rich Rizzi back in the day. He didn't care too much, though. After all, he still had a brand-new red '65 GTO.

In fact, its lack of options may have been a blessing in disguise. Rich related that his GTO was stolen three times, and each time he got it back with no parts missing. He reasons, "Since my GTO had so few options, there was little to strip, so whomever stole it simply walked away from it."

In 1969 Rich joined the NYPD to become a Tactical Patrol officer and soon realized through encounters on the job that he didn't want to raise his family in the city, so he moved to the more rural town of Monroe, New York. By 1974, the 120-mile roundtrip commute each day and the OPEC oil embargo had put enough of a financial strain on family finances that the GTO had to be sold.

But Rich did tell his wife Maria that he would be getting another '65 GTO in the future and next time it would be equipped his way. By 1988, he was once again on the prowl for a Tiger. In the local want ads, he located a Burgundy '65 with black interior, that still had its factory 389 four-barrel engine, four-speed trans, and 3.23 Safe-T-Track rear. It also had the Rally gauges, the ride-and-handling package, and power steering.

Rich hit the local shows and began to relive the good old days with his new Goat. Then in 1992 a mishap with a telephone pole creased the rear bumper and left him heartbroken. Not able to afford repairs, the GTO was retired from show duty and driven sparingly from then on.

Some years later Rich got back into building up his GTO as money allowed. He had the engine rebuilt and, "In 2005, I brought my GTO to Classic Restorations in Pine Island, New York, just to fix the bumper and quarter and paint it," Rich remembers. "But when looking over my insurance papers, I realized that the policy covered the damage and had zero deductible. With some cash freed up thanks to the coverage, one thing lead to another and here we are.

"I wanted to have the GTO built the way I would have ordered it back in the day if I had the money (and if Maria would have said OK). And I wanted it to be unique. I visited Classic Restorations two or three times a week to see all the different types of projects that were coming together and before I knew it I was bit by the bug and began to personalize my GTO beyond the factory order form."

Melvin Benzaquen, owner of Classic Restorations, designed the interior. "Additional comfort, power adjustability, looks, and function were key," he explains. "The idea was to make it evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Rich thought I was nuts when I was proposing ideas, especially the color scheme, but it all came together well."

The console was mocked up in cardboard so it could be easily modified until a final design was agreed upon. Then it was made in sheetmetal, and a '98 Jeep Grand Cherokee armrest was integrated into it before it was all wrapped in red vinyl.

Regarding the front seats, Melvin said, "We fabricated brackets to adapt the '06 GTO seats, but kept the original mounts in place for both safety and the ease of putting stock seats back in if desired." In the rear, custom retaining brackets were fabricated for the upper and lower sections. Classic's techs removed 3.5 inches from the middle of the upper seat and then made filler panels for the sides.

The body received its fair share of attention, too. Aircraft stripper relieved the shell of its paint, the accident damage was repaired, the rest of the sheetmetal was straightened where needed, and two coats of PPG DP50LF epoxy primer were applied. Block-sanding followed, and then the body was shot with PPG DP90LF sealer. Three coats of PPG DBU2000 in GM Torch Red were sprayed, followed by four coats of DBU2021 clear.

Once the paint cured, it was wet-sanded with 800-, 1,500-, 2,000-, and 2,500-grit paper before final polishing with 3M compound, Finesse-II, and Hand Glaze.

Under The Hood
Per the aforementioned rebuild, the Goat's WT-code 389 was punched 0.030 over and filled with the refurbished stock cast crank and rods, replacement cast pistons, and a high-volume oil pump.

A stock-spec 067 cam with 273/289-degrees duration and 0.410/0.413 lift was installed to work with the 1.92/1.66-valve No. 77 heads and 1.50:1 rockers. Later came a '65 Tri-Power induction system with a non-stock center carb, and a set of Dougs' ceramic-coated headers with 1.75-inch primaries and 3.00-inch collectors that dump into 2.50-inch pipes and Cherry Bomb glasspacks. The factory distributor with a Pertronix conversion fires the plugs.

A heavy-duty 11-inch Zoom clutch was installed ahead of the factory M20 four-speed, and the 3.23 Safe-T-Track rear remains.